Maine Officials Hope to Bolster Deer Herd Numbers

Posted by admin On March - 29 - 2011

Last Thursday, officials in Maine unveiled a plan to help increase the deer population–something that has been quickly dwindling. Part of that plan includes paying hunters to kill more coyotes in areas where deer herds are being impacted heavily.

The deer numbers in Maine have been in steady decline for decades with blame being placed on everything from poaching, car collisions, predators, severe winters, poor-quality deer yards, among others.

A large part of the blame falls on the people responsible for conservation, including hunters.

“We can’t just blame this on coyote and bear,” said Maine Gov. Paul Le Page at a news conference.

Just 10 years ago, the deer population was estimated at about 300,000. Currently, there are just an estimated 127,000 roaming the state. Bear numbers, currently, are around 30,000, while coyote have a population of approximately 20,000, according to the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

For hunters in Maine, the idea of better deer herd management is nothing new–they’ve been requesting it for almost as long as the population has been in decline. Hunting in Maine is a popular past time, with approximately 146,000 of the state’s 1.2 million people registering to hunt each year. Another 30,000 hunters are known to come from out of state each year.

To help control the deer numbers, the state is implementing a plan that has five components involving deer wintering habitat, population management, predator control, planning and public outreach.

The most notable is the predator control plan, which is shared by only one other state. Alaska uses predator control to help keep the bear and wolf numbers lower while bolstering moose and caribou populations.

Maine is planning on paying hunters to lure coyotes with bait and hunt them with dogs in areas where the predators have known to have an impact on the deer population. The payment is not a bounty, according to Chandler Woodcock, the commissioner of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. He said that it would not be a “wide-scale effort” and that hunters will be sent into areas with a known problem and paid a per-diem rate as well as some mileage costs.

“This effort is going to take some time,” said Woodcock. “It won’t happen overnight.”

The plan also stresses the importance of protecting deer yards, which are where deer keep out of the weather during winter.

Such deer wintering areas are critical to the survival of whitetail deer in Maine.

The plan has support from an array of sporting and conservation organizations, whose members crowded the State House news conference.

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